Sen. Hatch said something yesterday regarding the Fort Hood massacre that I think is very reasonable:
I don’t think all Islamic people in this country should be tarred by the fact that one guy goes off the rails. I think we ought to be fair. There are many wonderful Islamic people in this country. One of the best is my old friend Muhammad Ali. He’s a great, great person. You can’t put everybody in that category because one guy goes nuts.
I thank Sen. Hatch for this sane, uplifting comment. But I do think he is missing the point in some ways.
It is worth pointing out that, because of our Mormon heritage, Hatch understands that it is easy to paint people with a broad brush. Mormons have certainly suffered from that ever since the New York, Ohio and Missouri days. We still suffer from it today: look how we are being blamed for the same-sex marriage vote in Maine even though the Church made no special efforts in Maine and we have relatively few members there. It is also worth remembering that there was something of a “religious test” in the 2008 elections among Republican primary voters, especially the supporters of the bigot Mike Huckabee.
It is interesting to note, however, that hate crimes against Muslims are not a huge problem in the U.S., which is pretty remarkable given the conflicts with the Muslim world going all the way back to the 1970s. Take a look at this chart here, which basically shows that there are signficantly more anti-Jewish than anti-Muslim hate crimes and that anti-Muslim hate crimes have been pretty low since 2001.
So, on the one hand, Sen. Hatch’s point is extremely valid. On the other, there does not seem to be a huge trend of persecuting Muslims for the actions of one wacko. The U.S. has suffered from other terrorist attacks by Muslims, seemingly isolated events, since 9/11. Remember the DC sniper? Remember the guy who attacked the El Al counter at the LA airport? Remember the shoe bomber (I think of him every time I have to take off my shoes when I travel)?
Persecuting Muslims in any way for the actions of individuals is wrong. But what if Hasan really was getting orders from Yemeni handlers? One of his former imam’s has praised Hasan’s actions. There is evidence that Hasan was trying to contact al Qaeda and that U.S. intelligence knew about it. Hasan told a room of army doctors that Muslims loved death more than life. So, apparently there were a lot of warning signs that were ignored. Were they ignored because people didn’t want to persecute a Muslim?
It is possible that these warning signs were ignored because we are too concerned about not being bigoted?
The Mormon and Muslim analogy can be taken too far. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not shooting up army camps or airline counters, or trying to set off shoes bombs or randomly targeting people on DC freeways.
So, let’s be clear: blaming one guy’s religion for one guy’s actions is completely wrong. Peaceful Buddhist monks should not be blamed if one Buddhist goes postal. But if we are bending over backwards to protect and apologize for a religion’s most radical members – and therefore causing deaths that could have been prevented — are we doing a greater evil?